Doug Pray ’83 has spent most of his professional life exploring worlds unknown to him. A documentary filmmaker, Doug looks through the camera’s eye to delve into American subcultures — long-haul truck drivers, graffiti artists, hiphop DJs, and musicians. In his most recent film, “Art & Copy,” which opened last summer, he examines the culture of advertising and creativity.
Doug didn’t arrive at Colorado College with a film career in mind. “While I was at CC, I began to get excited about different media and entertainment and got heavily involved in activities like The Catalyst, KRCC, and a small but dynamic music scene on campus,” he says.
Doug was majoring in sociology when one of his professors, Jeff Livesay, screened a selection of (German director) Rainer Werner Fassbinder films. “I was suddenly hooked,” Doug says. He went on to study film in graduate school at UCLA and began making documentaries.
He says his education at CC helped prepare him for a job that is different every day. “It allows me to drop into different subcultures, get to know the people who created them, and make films about their art and lives. It’s the ultimate liberal arts experience. And like the Block Plan, it feels like I still get to change subjects every three and a half weeks!”
Doug believes his success as a filmmaker comes in part from taking a ‘liberal arts approach’ to his life and work. “It really does prepare people to think in crossdiscipline ways. When you get out into the world and work in a particular industry, especially the movie industry, it’s kind of a shock to realize how few people have that kind of an open mind. Most people focus on the task at hand, and have little or no interest in understanding its greater meaning.” As a director, Doug says his educational background “has really helped, both in my interviewing techniques for documentaries — having a sincere interest in my subjects and finding ways to relate to almost anyone — and the thrill I get from jumping into completely different subcultures and finding common understanding.”
In his newest film, Doug says he believed he would find a different kind of cultural understanding. “Art & Copy” features the personalities and ideas of some of the most legendary advertising creatives of the last 50 years.
At first, Doug says, the film seemed like a departure from his past work. “But I found more similarities than differences,” he says. “These creatives exhibit a rebellious voice not unlike the underground artists I’ve shot in the past. They feel misunderstood by society. They’re fiercely independent mavericks. But mostly, they, too, have a message that seemingly has to get out.”